Movie Review – Hello, My Name Is Doris
The title is an introductory line, which is never spoken in the film, but it’s a good title because in a way the film is reflective of what the protagonist is trying to do. She’s trying to introduce herself and make a connection, hopefully a romantic one. The problem is that it would be a May-December romance, the likes of which haven’t been approached since Harold and Maude (1971). The female protagonist who is probably 70 years-old is infatuated with a man half that age, probably 35 years-old. Nevertheless, it’s a romantic comedy that works. It doesn’t undermine or betray its characters. It utilizes its cast very well. It’s funny. It’s refreshing. It’s charming. It’s heartfelt. It’s quirky but feels present. It’s simply wonderful from beginning to end.
Directed and co-written by Michael Showalter, adapting Laura Terruso’s short film, one detects his sensibilities, but it doesn’t embrace the kind of comedy for which Showalter is probably best known or even what he’s recently done. It’s nothing like his last project, the Netflix series based on his Wet Hot American Summer. It doesn’t lean toward the absurd or the overly goofy. It’s a tad silly but leans more toward the realistic, offering up a brief, character study that easily becomes one of the year’s best.
Two-time Oscar-winner, Sally Field (Norma Rae and Places in the Heart) stars as Doris Miller, a woman named after Doris Day but who certainly isn’t as bold or outgoing as the blonde singer-turned-actress. She might have been bold and outgoing but if so, that personality has been eroded due to the fact that she has been caring for her infirm mother, which has made her a bit of a homebody and an intense hoarder.
She does have a job. She works in the accounting and data entry department of some company. Everyone in the company at large knows her, but most of the other employees are younger, probably in their early to mid 30’s, so there isn’t a lot of interaction between them. All of that changes when the company hires a new executive, an attractive man to whom Doris becomes smitten.
Max Greenfield (Veronica Mars and New Girl) co-stars as John Freemont, the new executive in question, a kind of boss who is a sweet, fun guy. He has a particular interest in music. He has a girlfriend and he’s trying to do well at his new job, as well as get along with everyone. He’s open to friendship with Doris and she seizes upon it. The question is if he’s open to more.
The narrative and a lot of the movie’s comedy comes from the question of if Doris is open to more too, and she is. Doris as a result of her crush on John gets immersed in youth culture and things she’s never done before. From social media and the idea of Internet catfish to Brooklyn hipsters, Showalter explores as much as he mocks and does so in a more compelling way than Noah Baumbach does in While We’re Young.
I was equally impressed with a lot of the supporting cast. Emmy-winner Tyne Daly (Cagney & Lacey and Judging Amy) who plays Roz, the best friend of Doris, is fantastic as a woman who lost her husband and feels like she might be losing Doris as well in various ways. Small roles like Kumail Nanjiani (Franklin & Bash and Silicon Valley) who plays Nasir, a gay co-worker to Doris who adds some much appreciated spice to the film and who always made me laugh with his one-liners.
At its core, it’s a movie that comes up with simple yet clever gags. Even if it’s just a costume or wardrobe choice, Showalter makes a lot of great, comedic turns here. I know I was hooked and in for a fun ride when an early gag involving a bike pump caused me to laugh out loud. This movie is absolutely winsome.
Five Stars out of Five.
Rated R for language.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 35 mins.